Wake County Commissioner Betty Lou Ward and several readers react to the decision of the board’s Republican members not to allow Ward, who had just been released from the hospital, to participate in a vote on whether to put a tax increase for teacher pay on the ballot this fall. If you missed the news story, read it here.
Here is the letter we received from Betty Lou Ward:
It has been my honor to serve on the Wake County Board of Commissioners since 1988. During these 26 years, I have watched Wake County become the best place to live in America, in no small part due to our award-winning school system. Commissioners, both Democratic and Republican, liberal and conservative, worked together to make prudent investments in our people, our infrastructure and our quality of life. Although there were often sharp disagreements, we always managed to be civil and work within a professional code of ethics.
Unfortunately, during the past four years, my colleagues in the majority have tossed civility and common courtesy aside in pursuit of an extreme partisan agenda. It started when they denied former Commissioner Stan Norwalk a recess to obtain diabetes medication, and then they took a vote when I needed a restroom break.
This pattern continued Monday in their refusal to allow me to participate by phone, despite there being a long tradition and recommended by the county attorney, in a critical debate about allowing our citizens the opportunity to vote on a referendum in support of teacher pay. My GOP colleagues decided that my situation was not an emergency. If they had recently been discharged from the hospital as I had, they likely would have felt differently.
Paying teachers more is an opportunity to keep our county competitive and to foster economic growth. Two counties, Mecklenburg and Guilford, have the referendum on their ballots this fall. The legislature has passed an unsustainable budget that robs Peter to pay Paul. In their wisdom, GOP commissioners decided this budget was enough for our schools and refused to put the referendum on the ballot. That is their prerogative, but they didn’t have to do it in such a petty and infuriating fashion that denied my constituents a voice.
Fortunately, there are four referendums on the ballot this fall as all Wake County residents can weigh in on the behavior of the four Republican commissioners up for re-election and their support for our schools.
Here are letters from readers:
The GOP members of the Wake County Board of Commissioners denied Betty Lou Ward participation by phone in this week’s meeting, a courtesy that has been extended in the past and something their attorney deemed appropriate. But this isn’t the first time Paul Coble and Joe Bryant have shown gross disrespect for their Democratic colleagues.
In December 2009, during a meeting that lasted until 2 a.m., Coble and Bryant were part of an unethical move to elect a new chair while Ward went to the bathroom. They claimed she didn’t have permission to go to the bathroom and seized the opportunity to vote without her. At that same meeting, Coble and Bryant were the only two members to vote no to bringing food into the marathon meeting.
This brutish behavior is not what we need representing the good citizens of Wake County. Voters have the power to stand up to these bullies and elect real leaders in November.
Display of disrespect
Shame on Wake County’s Republican commissioners! Commissioner Betty Lou Ward is at home recovering from an illness and was expecting to participate in the Aug. 4 meeting by phone. However, before the issue could be brought to the table, our Republican county commissioners instructed staff not to call Ward.
Betty Lou Ward has served Wake County for 26 years and does not deserve such disrespect. The citizens who elected her have the right to have her voice heard. Just as the citizens who spoke to the commission at the June 2 public hearing on the budget deserved their voices to be heard. While teacher after teacher poured their hearts out at the podium, many in tears, what was Paul Coble doing? He was looking at his phone and iPad the entire time. I was there and watched in disbelief.
By showing that kind of disrespect to voting citizens, it should be no surprise that Coble prefers partisan politics over common courtesy. Evidently, he has now persuaded his fellow Republicans to also ignore the public’s voice. All four of these men are on the ballot in November. Voters can change the discourse then.
Once again we have Republican politicians making medical decisions based on politics. This time it’s not about allowing women to make the most intimate and difficult decisions about their own bodies. Nor is it about denying medical care to a half-million of North Carolina’s working poor. No, now we have the Republican members of our own Wake County Board of Commissioners refusing to allow a duly-elected member to take part in the meeting by telephone after having been recently discharged from the hospital.
This, even after the county attorney recommended otherwise.
Commissioner Paul Coble’s claim that Commissioner Betty Lou Ward’s hospitalization and recuperation “didn’t qualify as a real emergency” is another example of practicing medicine without a license. Sadly, it is also another example of practicing politics without any humanity.
Rev. Tom Rhodes
I watched Monday’s Wake County commissioners meeting in shock. I could not believe the hostility I saw displayed when Commissioner Betty Lou Ward requested that she be allowed to call into the meeting since she is home recovering from surgery and unable to travel. Ward has been a public servant for over 25 years and deserves some consideration from her colleagues. The lack of respect shown by Paul Coble, Rich Gianni, Joe Bryan and Phil Matthews was unbelievable. This display of such bad manners should embarrass them as it does the citizens of Wake County. These men controlled the outcome of the vote anyway, and acting this way is simply a petty display of partisan politics. Voters should not tolerate this type of behavior from any of their elected officials.